In the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua dramatically illustrates the necessity to avoid sin at all costs.
Matthew 5:29-30 – If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into hell.
Through the use of hyperbole, he emphasizes the drastic need to maintain right actions in the life of the believer.
One of the aspects of vigilance in this area is expressed through the idea of balance. The Greek word sophron was used to indicate the quality of those who were to be entrusted with leading God’s people, and a quality exhibited by all believers, old or young, men and women.
1 Timothy 3:2 – The overseer then must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher,
Titus 1:8 – Instead he must be hospitable, devoted to what is good, sensible, upright, devout, and self-controlled.
Titus 2:1-7 – But as for you, communicate the behavior that goes with sound teaching. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in endurance. Older women likewise are to exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking, but teaching what is good. In this way they will train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, fulfilling their duties at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the message of God may not be discredited. Encourage younger men likewise to be self-controlled, showing yourself to be an example of good works in every way…
In these passages, the word translated as “self-controlled” and “sensible” is the Greek word sophron. According to the Helps word studies, this self-control and balance is achieved by remaining obedient to the commands of God; i.e., fearing God:
sṓphrōn (“acting in God’s definition of balance”) makes someone genuinely temperate, i.e. well-balanced from God’s perspective. True balance is not “one-size-fits-all” nor is it blandly static. Biblical moderation (sṓphrōn) describes “a man who does not command himself, but rather is commanded by God'” (K. Wuest, Word Studies, 2, 46). This root (sōphro-, “soundness”) then reflects living in God-defined balance.
Ecclesiastes 7:15-18 All this have I seen in my days of vanity: there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who lives long in his evildoing. Do not be overly righteous, neither make yourself overly wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Do not be too wicked, neither be foolish. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you should take hold of this. Yes, also from that do not withdraw your hand; for he who fears God will come forth from them all.
The Pulpit Commentary provides this concise summary of this passage in Ecclesiastes: “The fear of God will keep a man from all excesses.”
Also speaking on this passage, John Gill, in his Exposition, highlights how the fear of God provides the necessary balance in the life of the believer.
…for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all; or escape them all; the phrase is become Rabbinical, that, is, he shall be free or exempt from them all; from over much righteousness and over much wisdom, and over much wickedness or over much folly; the fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom, is the best preservative from, and antidote against, these things; for a man that fears God is humble, and renounces his own righteousness, and distrusts his own wisdom; he fears to commit sin, and shuns folly.
This concept of balance between two extremes is also brought out in the Proverbs:
Proverbs 4:23-27 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.
This temperance and balance will keep us from having to “gouge out our eyes” or “cut off our hands” to avoid sin, however that imagery used by Yeshua highlights the urgent commitment required of all believers. There is true and dire risk that we face when challenged with taking our eyes off of God and his Word. But by being vigilant with our hearts and maintaining a respectful fear of Yahweh, we will keep from swerving to the right or left, and remain on the path of righteousness that God has laid out for us.
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